What We Learn From Joseph

What We Learn From Joseph

When Joseph learned of the unusual events surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, his resulting shock was soon tempered by God’s reassurance to him.

So how should those of us experiencing unexpected, uncertain, or negative circumstances respond when we know that Christmas this year might be unusual?

This Sunday we will step back from the usual fast-paced Christmas season and remember some of the truths surrounding the Christmas story that will allow us to enter this season ready to celebrate the birth of Christ.

 

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Of all the holidays in a given calendar year, Christmas, more than any other holiday, creates an unusual dynamic.

There’s an intensity around Christmas that’s different from any other holiday. By that I mean somehow the Christmas season tends to make our highs higher and our lows lower.

There are young married couples in our church who have newborn babies and this will be their first Christmas as a family. Experiencing Christmas for the first time with a child in the home makes the Christmas high even higher. It will be the best Christmas they’ve ever had.

Emotions tend to multiply around Christmastime.

Some of you are expecting a joy-filled Christmas because you have a job this Christmas and you didn’t have one last Christmas.

Some of you are married this Christmas; you were single last Christmas.

Your loved one is home this Christmas, so you’re looking forward to having them around the tree exchanging gifts this Christmas… you can hardly wait.

Some of you are followers of Christ this Christmas and you know what it’s about this year. And you’re looking forward to all of the experiences associated with Christmas.

For some of us this is not going to be Christmas as usual because we have new levels of joy in our life this year.

Of course, as December 25 approaches for others of us, this intensifying dynamic of Christmas is going to work the other way.

If I asked you to raise your hand if you’re going to have an unusual Christmas this year because you’re experiencing a difficult circumstance of some kind — be it health related or job related, separation, divorce, widow, whatever — I think a lot of us would have to raise our hands.

And the more I thought about how many of us might be facing a tough holiday season, the more God seemed to bring Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, to my mind.

So I want to talk about the unusual events of Christmas from Joseph’s perspective today.

If you have your bible, turn to Matthew 1:18.

Today I want to think with you about how unusual this must have been for Joseph.

Matthew 1:18

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

And Joseph her husband, being a Righteous Man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

I want to start with what it says about Joseph back in verse 19.

And Joseph her husband, being a Righteous Man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

This phrase – “Righteous Man” – was a technical expression.

There’s a very rich history behind this expression.

It’s a Hebrew expression that meant he was known for his uncompromising obedience to the Torah, to the law of Moses.

He did not eat unclean foods.
He did not mix with the wrong kinds of people.
He did not keep his carpentry shop open on the Sabbath to make a few extra bucks.

He was a Righteous Man. That was his identity and everyone knew this about him.

No one invited Joseph over to have ham sandwiches with tax collectors and prostitutes.

He was what men in that culture wanted to be…

Like a businessman in our day wants to be a CEO
Like an athlete wants to be an all-star
Like someone born in Fresno wants to live anywhere else
Like an Oakland Raider wants to be a Chicago Bear. You know Khalil Mack is happy about that trade.

An Israelite wanted to be a Righteous Man, because then you were admired and looked up to. In that culture, a Righteous Man was really “Somebody.”

And that was Joseph!

But now… he’s a Righteous Man with an unusual problem.

The girl he’s promised to marry is going to have a baby and there’s a father somewhere… but it’s not him.

You know, Nazareth is a small town and as a general rule, you can imagine that word gets around in a small town.

My parents live in a small town in Tennessee where everyone knows everyone’s business.

It’s amazing how quickly gossip spreads in that little town.

Well it would have been the same way in Nazareth.

So we have a Righteous Man and a pregnant fiancée, in a small village where it’s the general rule that everyone knows everyone’s business.

And because we live on the other side of Christmas… and we know the story… we usually rush to the end of the story where everything turns out to be okay.

We might even be tempted to think Joseph was kind of slow spiritually… and he should have figured out what was going on a lot sooner.

If we do that, we miss the whole point of what Joseph is learning, and what we can learn from him.

There’s some amazing stuff going on around Christmas besides how Jesus got here.

It’s easy to miss out on how God is already beginning to redefine what it means to be a Righteous Man, what true righteousness is.

I don’t want us to miss this, so we’re going to walk in Joseph’s shoes today.

Put yourself in his place for a moment.

Your fiancée is pregnant and your whole reputation and identity revolve around one thing: your commitment to the Torah.

What the Torah says, you do. That’s who you are.

The Torah has some very clear instructions about what to do to someone in Mary’s condition.

There’s a section in Deuteronomy 22 that covers marriage violation. Take a look at the screen for a moment.

If a woman who is pledged to be married is unfaithful, it says:

she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.

She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

If this seems kind of unreal to you, there’s are similar situations happening all over the world right now… in our day!

You know… maybe Joseph would think she’d been seduced by another man.

In that case, according to Torah, they were both to be stoned.

The Torah was real clear. Joseph’s reputation as a Righteous Man was on the line… and everyone knew what he would do.

All of his fellow righteous men would have told him that this sin must be publicly exposed and punished.

But Joseph couldn’t bring himself to do this.

And to understand this tension we have to do a little study on grammar for a moment. Doesn’t that sound exciting to anyone?

There’s a grammatical construction here in verse 19. It involves what’s called a participle.

Turn to the person next to you real fast and see who remembers what a participle is. Just turn to them real quickly and see if they remember.

A participle is an, -ing verb. How many of you got that right?

That’s the simplest way to remember it. It’s sometimes called a verbal adjective, like:

the crying baby
or the growing boy.

In Matthew 1:19, we run into what’s called in Greek a circumstantial participle.

This is the kind of participle that can be translated in a number of different ways, maybe nine different ways, depending on the context or the circumstance.

Now, Matthew 1:19 literally says, “Being a Righteous Man.”

And Joseph her husband, being a Righteous Man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

The question is, How do you translate that phrase, that circumstantial participle, “being righteous?”

You can translate it causally – because he was righteous. Some versions do that.

And the idea with that would be… because he’s righteous, he doesn’t want to cause a problem.

A New Testament scholar named Don Hagner says probably the best translation is this.

“Although he was righteous, although he was a Righteous Man, he didn’t want to cause a scandal. In spite of the fact that he was righteous…”

Because in the old system, the way people thought about this would have meant that righteousness would have demanded that she be exposed because of her sin.

Sinners need to be excluded. Standards had to be maintained. In the old system, righteousness always separated itself from sin and sinners.

A Righteous Man would not hesitate… and yet Joseph hesitated. He couldn’t bring himself to say the words, to go public — even though he was a Righteous Man.

It doesn’t take much imagination to know how Joseph must have agonized over this.

When the angel comes to Joseph, Joseph of course already knows that Mary is pregnant.

Now the question is, “How did he find out?”

Who told him that Mary was pregnant?

Almost certainly, it would have been Mary.

Put yourself in his place.

This is real life. You’re engaged to a young girl, and your fiancée comes to you and says:

“I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is I’m pregnant even though we’re not married yet. The good news is I haven’t been with anyone else.

“An angel came to me and said, ‘Hail, Mary full of grace.’

“I’m going to have a miracle baby. And all generations will call me blessed… except Protestants.

“And the last-second desperation pass in a football game with time running out will be named after me.

“It’s going to be an amazing thing. I will conceive a child miraculously.

“I know it’s never happened before, but it’s going to happen.”

Now imagine how she must have tried to convince him of her innocence.

And imagine Joseph’s struggle.

Most likely this is about a 13-year-old girl. New Testament scholars say, most likely, his father arranged the marriage. Joseph probably did not know her terribly well at this point.

She seemed to be sincere… but an angel? A virgin birth? An unimportant, obscure village in the middle of nowhere, a million miles away from Jerusalem? No way!

Joseph has been honoring God as best he knows how. He thought he was marrying a woman committed to those same values, but apparently the joke is on him: she’s pregnant.

Joseph’s head is spinning, and the only thing he’s sure of is that his life will not be unfolding business as usual.

Feelings of hurt and betrayal and confusion are swirling around in his spirit.

Can I take a quick time out for a second?

What is your reaction when a wrench gets thrown into your plans?

When your job gets eliminated in a downsizing effort at work and you never saw it coming? Knock at the door; it’s the HR guy. And you’re going: “You’ve got to be kidding me. Not at Christmas; come on.”

A medical report knocks the wind out of you.

You get betrayed by a spouse or a child or a friend.

By human nature, most of us are what I call ‘hot reactors.’ In those moments when bad news comes our way, we want to scream or lash out. We want to get revenge. We want somebody to pay. We want to cry: Unfair; flagrant foul. We want heaven and earth to know we do not deserve these circumstances, especially not now. Especially not with Christmas coming.

There’s a little known text in 2 Timothy 4:5 that I’ve always been fascinated with and I’ve never taught on before. This is the apostle Paul talking to a young leader named Timothy. He says,

But you, Timothy, keep your head in all situations.

I love the directness of that instruction. Whatever comes your way — a wrench gets thrown into your plans — you keep your head in every situation that comes your way.

So Joseph is reeling from the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Somehow Joseph manages to keep his head in this situation.

He doesn’t lash out at Mary.
He doesn’t run out and have an affair of his own to get even.
He doesn’t tell a hundred people that Mary did him wrong.

Look what he does as he keeps his head; Matthew 1:19 says,

And Joseph her husband, being a Righteous Man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

Joseph is keeping his head. He’s asking God to help him with his own pain and sense of betrayal, but he’s resisting the temptation to allow bitterness and vengeance-seeking to take over his heart.

He’s looking for a way to protect Mary from public disgrace.

I have enormous respect for Joseph.

When wrenches get thrown into my plans, I want to be sober-minded and kind-hearted. Don’t you?

When bad news comes my way, I don’t want to be that blaming, bitter reactionary crazy person who lashes out at people and shakes fists and curses God in the night. I don’t want to be that guy.

I want to be able to keep my head.
I want to be able to keep my faith.
I want to be able to keep my hand in God’s hand and trust him hour by hour as the nightmare unfolds, believing that he will see me through it.

We read in the next verse that God rewards Joseph’s faith and his kindheartedness by communicating to him in a dream that very night.

See if you can figure out what the key word is in this verse.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…

What’s the key word?

I think it’s “after.”

And here’s the question: Why did God make Joseph wait until after he had to think and struggle with all of this stuff?

Why couldn’t an angel just come to him ahead of time and explain everything that was going on and remove all of the anxiety?

And I want to answer that question with another question.

Is it possible that anxiety-removal is not God’s number one goal for Joseph? … or maybe for you and me for that matter?

Is it possible that in getting his world turned upside down, in having to struggle between what he thought a Righteous Man ought to do and his longing to show compassion to this young girl, that maybe Joseph was being prepared by God to come to a whole new understanding of what righteousness really is?

Is it possible that there’s kind of a ministry at disequilibrium that God is allowing to take place in Joseph’s life so that he’ll come to a whole new area of growth?

Is it possible in your life, maybe right now, if you’re confused or disoriented or uncertain about something, that maybe it’s not because you’ve done something wrong.

Maybe you’re about to grow.
Maybe what you need to do is just wait on God and keep trusting and praying and refuse to violate God’s work.
Trust that God’s going to do something in your life you don’t even know about yet.

Let me ask you a question that’s important for us consider:

When does it get hard to hear from God?

Certainly when we’re living at such a fast pace of life that just the wind noise past our ears makes it hard to hear from God.

And so often in the Christmas season speed just gets the best of us. And pretty soon it’s so ironic that in the holiest of holy seasons, we can’t hear God because of the pace we’re running.

When else is it difficult to hear from God?

When you’re reeling from a fresh disappointment.
When you first learn that the adoption is not going to happen as planned because the mother reconsidered.
When the white blood cell count did not go back to normal.
When the job offer, in fact, was not extended to you and now there are all closed doors for yet another season.
You receive bad news. Your heart starts to race. Your imagination kicks into overdrive. You come up with all kinds of worse case scenarios.

You drive past the lawns and billboards that say Peace on Earth, and you’ve got no peace.

Every other song you hear on the radio is Joy to the World, and you’re fresh out of joy.

Trust me, that’s when it’s very difficult to hear from God.

When your head is filled with worry, it’s tough to keep your head.

When you’re dealing with a fresh disappointment, it’s very hard to discipline yourself to find a quiet place to get alone with God and to try to get your bearings to where you can kneel down and say:

“God, do you have a word for me? I’m struggling here. Do you have a word for me? Do you have a perspective on this that I don’t have that you could share with me, because I’m losing my bearings here, God?”

I want you to know, the Christ-followers I most respect in the world, the people of faith that I most want to be like… they have all learned that the single best time to carve out space to get alone with God is as close to the moment of deep disappointment as possible so that God can become a refuge and a strength right from the get-go.

For all of you whose worlds are spinning as we head into this Christmas season and who know this is going to be an unusual Christmas for your family, I want to urge you to allot some time away from the pressing circumstances so that you can get your bearings back.

I want to urge you to find a quiet place where you can be alone with God. Where you can say: “God, I need a little help down here. I’m losing my head; I don’t want to. I’m losing my bearings; I don’t want to. God, I need a little help.”

Many of us, when we’re doing those emergency meetings with God, start those meetings as Psalm 62:8 simply says:

Pour your heart out to God for he is a refuge for you.

Pour out your heart. Describe every thought, every worry, every fear. Tell him everything. Cry out. And after you’ve poured out your heart to God, then listen quietly for his response.

And if you listen quietly, he will often say to you the very same words that he said to Joseph in Matthew 1:20:

“Do not be afraid. Joseph, the main thing I’ve got to tell you: Everything looks out of control, but do not be afraid.”

Three hundred and sixty-five times the writers of Scripture use the little phrase fear not. We make terrible decisions when we’re afraid. Fear not. Keep your head.

Some authors think it’s listed in the Scriptures three hundred and sixty-five times because we need it once a day.

Listen for God’s whisper to you: I am with you. I’m in front of you, behind you, next to you, and in you. We are going to handle this nightmare together.

In my experience and from the witness of more Christ-followers than I could count, if you have these emergency meetings with God and you get away from what’s swirling around you and you get quiet and alone with God and you pour your heart out to him and you let the Holy Spirit speak to you, it’ll help you keep your head.

It might even bring the peace that passes human understanding. It might be fragile for a while, but it’s better than nothing.

Well, what happens here is… the angel says, “Joseph, don’t be afraid.”

Notice this.

…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Why does the angel say, “Don’t be afraid?”

Where does fear come into the picture?

He would be afraid of offending God.
He would be afraid of violating the Torah.

But it’s not just that. Joseph would be afraid of losing his reputation.
He would be afraid of what everyone would think about him.
He would be afraid that status he had taken his whole lifetime to build would be destroyed.

Joseph knew all about his own doubts when Mary told him about the angel.

There’s no way the people in his town are going to believe that an angel came to a poor couple, in an obscure village, and caused the conception of a child in the body of a virgin, teenage girl. There’s no way.

He knew if he married her, his friends would never accept his account of what happened. He would not be invited to their homes, he would not be given their business, he would never again be admired and respected as a lover of the Torah.

If he committed himself to this baby, to the one who would be known as Jesus, he would do so at enormous sacrifices.

His whole reputation, the work of a lifetime would be trashed.

The angel says, “Don’t be afraid,” and it says Joseph does what the angel had commanded him. He does two things in verses 24 and 25.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

He took Mary home as his wife. That’s a legal step. It meant he was publicly claiming her as his wife.

Then it says he named the baby. This too is a legal action. In the act of naming the child, Joseph is publicly adopting this child as his son.

Legally, Joseph has now deliberately tied his destiny to the lives of two stained reputations.

Joseph has made a decision that would cause anyone who understands it to be in awe.

Now his days as a Righteous Man are over. Whatever the future has for him, it will not be the life of respectability.

And I want to show you how fully Joseph risked everything on what God was doing.

Jesus was part of a larger family. How many brothers and sisters do you think Jesus had? Take a guess. He had four brothers.

And what were there names?

We find the answer to this in Mark 6:3. They were named James, Joseph, Judas and Simon.

He also had two sisters named Brittany and Ashley. I’m just kidding!

It’s a little hard to tell from the English translation, but here’s the significance of Mark 6:3.

Each of his brother’s names is the Greek version of the Hebrew name for one of Israel’s great patriarchs: Jacob, Joseph, Judah, and Simeon.

Scholars say it may well be that Joseph and Mary gave their sons these names because they knew, because they trusted that through their Son, Jesus, God is going to act one more time to renew his people.

God is going to begin again the dream which he just can’t let go of… to set apart people for himself. That’s what God is up to in the birth of this little baby.

It may be in Mark 6:3 that we see part of the price that Joseph paid.

This is an interesting scene set back in Jesus’ hometown where the people of his hometown are expressing skepticism. They don’t think much about Jesus, his claims, or his miracles. Their comment about him is this:

Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Mary?

In that culture, no one would refer to a man in that way. A man would be referred to as the son of his father.

Even though Joseph might have been dead by then, Jesus would have been known as: Jesus, the son of Joseph.

But they don’t do that. To refer to a man as the son only of the mother could be a real harsh expression…

Something like a very crude English phrase where someone is called the “son-of-a,” and then a real crude, insulting word for the mother.

It’s a painful way of talking about the condition of the birth of that person.

Mark 6:3 may well reflect that decades later, not just years but decades later, in their little village that Joseph’s reputation still has not recovered from his marriage.

And only Mary and Jesus knew why Joseph did what he did.

It’s amazing for me to think about how after Joseph died, and the decades and centuries and millennia now to follow, millions of people would make sacrifices for the sake of this one called Jesus.

Many would give up their status, their possessions, their convenience, their freedom, and even their lives.

You know, I think about how Joseph, when he looked into people’s eyes after he’d obeyed God, things were never the same.

They never looked at him with the same respect and adoration.

And when he looked into the eyes of this child, Jesus, and he saw the love and adoration of a two-year-old boy, a three-year-old boy, he knew he had done the right thing.
I think maybe God decided that Jesus, who would be called a friend of sinners, should be raised in a family that knew first-hand what it felt like to be regarded in the spiritually second-class category.

Maybe part of why Jesus had such a heart for unrespectable people is that he was raised in a family by a father who sacrificed his respectability for his son.

Maybe one reason that Jesus had so much compassion for women who were walking scandals is that he knew what it meant, to his mom, that his father had stuck by her when she was single and pregnant and when all the “righteous” men would have picked up a stone.

I recently taught the story in John Chapter 8 about the woman who was caught in adultery. She was tried and condemned and sentenced real fast, and she was surrounded by a group of righteous men. They dragged Jesus into this, and they said to him in John 8:4:

Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery.

And then we read a really significant phrase, something that would have been said to a Righteous Man in John 8:5:

In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now, what do you say?

“You’re supposed to be a Righteous Man, what do You say?”

And then the text says that Jesus bends down and writes on the ground.

For two thousand years, people have been trying to figure out what he was writing on the ground.

There have been lots of guesses.

Some people think maybe he was writing the Ten Commandments on the ground.
Some people guess maybe he was writing different laws that folks in that circle had violated… like standing at the window staring at a woman committing adultery… and then writing their names next to it. I like that option.
Some believe that maybe the single word that he wrote in the dust on the ground was Mom. || It’s possible. Who knows.

Maybe, in that moment, Jesus thought of a scared, thirteen-year-old pregnant girl in a village consumed by scandal, and a strong young Righteous Man named Joseph who gave up everything to stand by the side of that thirteen-year-old girl.

And Jesus said to the righteous men around that circle in John 8:7.
Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

And one by one, they all walked away, and Jesus is left alone with that woman.

He had loved and protected her when all the righteous people were ready to stone her… “like Father, like Son.”

I think of how Jesus as he was growing up must have admired his dad’s courage so much

I was thinking this week:

What if this church became known in our community as a place of grace… a place where you can experience unconditional love?

What if word started to spread that no matter what you’ve done or how badly you’ve messed up, this is a community where they won’t stone you?

And then I got to thinking… what if what happened in Jesus’ day happened again here… and it just didn’t matter whether someone was homeless or a CEO, what color they were or how they dressed?

What if word started to spread all around the Bay Area among atheists and addicts and workaholics and divorced people and gay people, that there is a place where you just get loved?

Let me ask you a little more personal question. Who is God calling you to love?

The love of Christ is expressed most clearly when it is extended to people who are difficult to love.

Jesus said one time, If you just love people who are easy to love – people who will love you back – everyone does that.

Babies do that! Even criminals do that!

One of the most important things we need for Christmas if we want to grow spiritually is a difficult person in our lives.

I mention this because there’s a good chance that over the next few days, you’re going to be sitting around a table somewhere celebrating Christmas and there’s going to be a difficult person sitting with you.

And you can, if you want to, cross your arms and pick up a stone. A lot of people do.

Sadly, a lot of churches have a lot of stone-throwers. You can pass judgment if you want to. You can say for whatever reason this person doesn’t measure up to my standards.

They’re too odd, or too bad, or too off, or too wrong or too loud or too something.

You can do that, if you want.

Or you can hear God’s invitation to grace and unconditional love. You can remember the love and grace that came your way, and then pass that along.

I love what Ann LaMotte said:

You can safely assume you’ve made God over in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do. – Ann LaMotte

Jesus grew up embracing and loving people that no one else — let alone a Righteous Man — would love.

And people looked at Jesus and said:

“You think you’re a Righteous Man? You call yourself a Righteous Man? You’re a “friend of sinners.” You’re embracing people that no Righteous Man ever would.”

But Jesus came to teach about another kind of righteousness – a better kind of righteousness.

And we start to see so many parts of his life in a different light when we think about the unusual events of this story.

There was a time recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5:20) when Jesus was teaching, and he said:

I tell you the truth. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

And people wondered, “What kind of righteousness is he talking about?”

I don’t know how that verse sits with you, but for me, for a long time, I found this verse very intimidating because I knew that the Pharisees were people who did an enormous amount.

They studied the Scripture.
They fasted.
They tithed.
They gave enormous amounts of money.
They lived their whole life doing everything.

I would read this verse, and I would think, “I’m supposed to do even more than they do? There’s no way… they do so much.”

It was a very intimidating verse to me until I came to understand Jesus’ point, which I want to clarify to you with a question: How righteous were the Pharisees in Jesus’ eyes? Think about that. How righteous were they?

They weren’t righteous at all.

They were incredibly unrighteous because Jesus says the first commandment of righteousness is to love God with all your heart and love people as you love yourself.

So, when Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees,” he is not being intimidating; he’s actually setting the bar incredibly low at that point.

He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you can’t enter into the kingdom of God. But don’t be troubled by this, because the truth is, the scribes and the Pharisees miss true righteousness by a long shot.”

He’s saying, “It’s true that they look very religious, but the heart of righteousness is…” And then he goes on to redefine righteousness. He’s redefining what it means to be a Righteous Man.

Because Jesus learned about what it means to be a Righteous Man by his father.

Jesus must have been thinking, “I’ve seen the better kind of righteousness firsthand. My father was such a man.”

You know… God had a reason for this odd, painful, lonely way to start a family.

And God still calls people to be willing to die to reputation and status and comfort for the sake of love.

When Joseph made the decision to stay with Mary, to be her husband, he thought it was the end of his reputation as a Righteous Man.

He didn’t fully know that the child he would adopt would bring a new kind of righteousness to the human race.

And I’m here to tell you… anyone who wants to be… can be a part of that righteousness.

Because God in a manger, in a stable, was starting a new kind of community… a new kind of righteousness, that is available to all of us… not because we work so hard to impress other people with how good and spiritual we are, but by faith as a gift that Jesus gives.

I want to close in prayer while the band comes to lead us in a closing song.

And I want to pray specifically for those of us who need to redefine what righteousness is… for those of us who believe righteousness comes through something other than this child who was born in a manger 2018 years ago.

Will you pray with me?

God, some of us need help keeping our pace a little saner this season. Give all of us the courage to say no to some stuff that’s going to make us crazy.

Underline the need we all have to spend blocks of time in solitude, maybe re-reading the Christmas story afresh. Letting it speak to us. Letting the Holy Spirit bring some of those beautiful Christmas truths back into our hearts.

Maybe watching The Nativity Story movie or some Bible Project videos… while everyone else is running so fast, we could be quieting our spirits and filling our hearts with your truth and with your love.

God, for those who are carrying heavy burdens right now, remind them that you are a father to the fatherless and that you will never leave them or forsake them.

God, with people who are heading into this Christmas with incredible amounts of joy because of a new baby, a new job, or whatever the circumstance, may we be able to rally around them and share their joy.

God, help us keep our heads this Christmas.

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